The Japanese firms Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co and Fujifilm Corp. best-known for its photo prints, have launched their biosimilars joint venture which will initially work on a version of Abbott Laboratories' blockbuster Humira.

The new venture, first announced in November, will merge Fujifilm's production, quality control and analysis technologies, "developed through its photographic film business over many years", with Kyowa Hakko Kirin's know-how, accumulated through its biopharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing. The firms say they hope "to create revolutionary production processes and to achieve cost reduction for biosimilars" and become the market leader.

Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics will first focus on the development of a biosimilar of Abbott's fully human anti-TNF-alpha monoclonal antibody Humira (adalimumab), "a drug with high therapeutic effects for rheumatoid arthritis". The therapy is also approved for indications such as Crohn’s disease and psoriasis and is a huge earner; fourth-quarter sales rose 15.9% to $2.18 billion (+15.9%).

The JV plans to start clinical trials of its Humira copy in the beginning of 2013 and is aiming for market introduction "four to five years after". It also expects to start clinical trials of one biosimilar every year after 2014 and intends to hold talks with other companies for collaborations.

Fujifilm's traditional business has suffered as a result of the rise of the digital camera, and has stated its desire to become "a comprehensive healthcare company". As part of that strategy, it is setting up a JV in Japan with India's Dr Reddy's Laboratories will develop, manufacture and promote "competitive and high quality generic drugs".